The District Court of the Hague has ruled that Shell must cut its carbon dioxide emissions by 45% within 10 years, based on 2019 levels.
In a ruling thought to be the first of its kind, a Dutch judge found the corporation’s climate plans were “intangible, undefined and non-binding” and ordered it to align with the goals of the Paris Agreement.
The energy giant’s current climate plans are to reduce its relative carbon dioxide emissions by 30% by 2035, a target that the court suggested would allow oil and gas exploration to continue at a highly damaging rate.
The legal action was brought against Shell by a total of seven environmental organisations, including Friends of the Earth Netherlands, as well as 17,000 co-plaintiffs.
The energy firm is expected to appeal the decision, but campaigners hope the verdict will “trigger a wave of climate litigation against big polluters” and severely curtail future oil and gas exploration.
Donald Pols, Director of Friends of the Earth Netherlands: “This is a monumental victory for our planet, for our children and a big leap towards a livable future for everyone. The judge has left no room for doubt: Shell is causing dangerous climate change and must stop its destructive behaviour now.”
Shell, which continues to invest large amounts of money into fossil fuels every year, argued that it was the duty of governments, not businesses, to deliver upon net zero obligations. While it was not found to have acted unlawfully, the court concluded it had to act to protect the rights of Dutch citizens.
One of the lawyers involved in the case, Roger Cox, stated: “This is a turning point in history. This case is unique because it is the first time a judge has ordered a large polluting corporation to comply with the Paris Climate Agreement. This ruling may also have major consequences for other big polluters.”
Shell has been contacted for a response.